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by Silke Hartung

Louis Baker: Fronting The APO & Brighter Day Ahead

by Silke Hartung

Louis Baker: Fronting The APO & Brighter Day Ahead

Performing your own songs with a full, professional orchestra must be high on the wish list of many musicians out there. Following the release of his 2019 album ‘Open’, Wellingtonian Louis Baker, a man with a soulful voice as well as an imaginative songwriter, was given this opportunity last year when the APO approached him to play one of their fabled occasional gigs with pop musicians, stepping into the recent footsteps of Nadia Reid, Dave Dobbyn, Six60 and a select group of some of our other finest musicians. Silke Hartung caught up with Louis ahead of his show, which takes place on February 11 at Auckland Town Hall. (Tickets available here.) 

Congratulations on doing a show with the APO! How do you feel about getting to play your original music in front of a full orchestra?

Thank you! This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. There’s something so moving about hearing an orchestra play, and to have a collaboration with the APO and my songs is next level. We had a look around the Auckland Town Hall last time I was up. It’s such a beautiful space. I started to visualise the feeling of playing there and it excited me hugely.

When did talk about this first originate, and how long did it take from those discussions to the actual gig?

I was doing a solo tour around the South Island and was in the Catlins when my manager received the email from the APO inviting me to perform. The show was originally supposed to happen in September 2020 but because of Covid 19, it got cancelled. Fortunately, though, they were able to find a date on February 11, so it’s taken that long to get round to playing this special show.

What work is involved in an event like once you know it’s going to happen? How much you are allowed to determine arrangements etc?

The cool thing about the APO performance is that it’s a true collaboration, and they encourage you to follow what feels right to you musically. I’ve been involved from the start, and have been across decisions such as who will arrange and conduct the music, plus I wrote the setlist.

Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper is the APO’s go-to arranger. What’s his approach to embellishing contemporary music with an orchestra?

Mahuia and I have known each other for a few years now, and he is a tremendously talented arranger, producer and instrumentalist. Working with Mahuia has been a breeze. We have looked over the arrangements together the whole way through, double-checking parts, making sure it feels natural, and always serves the music. He is a very selfless and hard-working guy.

What criteria did you go by in picking the songs you’re going to perform? 

I wanted to take people on a journey from where I began, to where I’m headed to. For instance, I’ll be playing songs off my first EP and then performing two new songs off my new record. Out of all the tracks I would have to say that the arrangement for Rainbow is my favourite. The parts are beautiful and I’m really excited about doing it live.

What’s your favourite orchestral instrument – one you just feel when you hear it?

It’s hard to go past violin for me, my favourite for sure.

Have you any previous experience working with a large choir or full orchestra? How does that feeling compare?

I sang in The Chorale at Wellington Boys College, but that’s about it. There’s an intimacy with a solo show, you wear your heart on your sleeve, for all to see, but getting to perform with a 65-piece orchestra is pretty mind-blowing.

Being someone with a big soul voice yourself, who might you choose to listen to in preparation for the gig?

A reference for me is a tune like What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. I went to jazz school, so I love classical and jazz music – it feels like home to me. We are definitely standing on the shoulders of giants!

The PR talks about new material of yours being played at the show? 

Yes, I’m playing two new songs, Brighter Day and Love Levitates from my new album which will be out later on in the year. I can’t give too many details away yet…

As an artist, how do you make the most of such a great opportunity? Is there a video planned for instance?

I’ve got some plans in place for getting some content out of this show. It would be a shame not to document such an incredible opportunity.